Shakespeare Theatre Fire

Stratford Debates What to Do With Shakespeare Theatre Property

The historic Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford went up in flames last January, a fire caused by arson.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

It’s been about a year since the historic Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford was destroyed by arson, and now the town is plotting what to do next with the property.

The fiery destruction of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre stunned many in town.

“We were both in tears. It was quite emotional,” said Walter Stelmack of Stratford.

Little was left of the landmark which fans had flocked to since 1955. Though it had been dark for decades when flames broke out, theatergoers fondly remember the performances there.

“They were wonderful. In the first place they brought in big stars because like Katharine Hepburn was there once,” said Mitzi Antezzo of Stratford.

On Thursday Antezzo was among those taking their seats at Town Hall as the next act for the spot is planned.

“I think another theater should be put up,” said Antezzo.

For the last year members of a task force listened to people’s suggestions. Those were narrowed to open space and a multi-purpose facility with a theater.

“Personally I would like to see the arts continued,” said Diana Kunkel of Stratford.

On Thursday people gathered for the first meeting of the new Shakespeare Property Subcommittee.

It will take a closer look at the community’s ideas.

“That’s the idea. To share more in-depth particulars on a facility, on a park-like setting and enhancing that. Maybe an open-air venue. What other communities have done, how they’ve done it and share that information with the town,” said Mayor Laura Hoydick (R).

After the arson, three teens were charged and the town received about $1.7 million from insurance.

At this point no budget has been set for whatever the town eventually decides to build.

“It is a viable place. It’s a beautiful place and I hope to see it back,” said Walter Stelmack.

The subcommittee will spend the coming months studying the options.

Members will later present their findings to the Redevelopment Agency and town leaders.

Contact Us